Friday, 24 May 2013

Ni-hao America

Learn without thinking begets ignorance. Think without learning is dangerous. -- Confucius

These days many of our consumables, from clothing to electronics, are manufactured in Asia under conditions that are considered highly unsafe but are tolerated because of lower production costs.  In the end it is the workers and little people who suffer.

That suffering is being felt on both sides of the ocean now, because of shady business practises and contaminated goods.  Just this morning, quality concerns with a Chinese producer of acetaminophen have prompted a recall of four fever medications for children.  Earlier in the week, batches of honey produced in China were subject to recall due to chemicals in the honey.

From time to time we hear about childrens' toys or jewelry made in China that contains lead or other harmful substances.  And we can't forget the 2008 incident in China where over 50,000 babies were hospitalized because of infant formula adulterated with melamine.  And this despite a melamine ban that had been imposed the previous year!

Who puts PLASTIC in foodstuffs?  Who puts TOXINS in childrens' toys?  The answer: people who care about money more than they care about people's health.  So a few children die from their products... there are too many people in the world already, right?

We need to pay closer attention to these things.

Since I don't grow my own food I am becoming increasingly careful about what I buy and where it originated.  For example, pick up two otherwise identical cans of fruit salad and look at the labels.  One says Made in U.S.A. and the other says Made in China.  The U.S.-produced one will most likely be at least 50 cents more expensive, but I would prefer to pay that extra 50 cents to be assured that the contents are safer.

Typically I avoid fresh produce that does not originate in North America.  But that is no guarantee.  Those California strawberries might have been treated with waxes or sprays so they don't ripen before they reach a market in Canada.  That batch of bell peppers from Mexico might have been irrigated with contaminated water.  I have even seen reports of merchants openly spraying produce displays with insecticide to keep fruit flies away.  And washing produce before eating it doesn't always remove contaminants since the plant absorbs everything from the environment.

Some people have said that the only way to make a difference is to boycott Asian products.  Realistically that probably won't work, because we depend too much on products from overseas.  Take a look at the label of almost anything you see and it will be marked as made somewhere in Asia.  Even the winter boots I bought last year, an expensive brand that was marketed as Canadian, had a tiny label inside them that said Made in China.  No wonder they didn't last; the quality of Chinese-made goods is abysmal.

There is a need for clear regulation in these industries, and it must be consistently enforced.  And we need to start shifting production back here.  For the jobs, for the economy, and for the safety of millions of people.

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